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Russia may get new trade ministry - government official

EVIAN, France, June 6 (RIA Novosti) - A senior Russian government official said Tuesday the establishment of a new trade ministry was possible, but refused to comment on rumors that Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref could resign.

"The issue is being considered, but a decision has yet to be made," deputy head of the government staff Mikhail Kopeikin told journalists on the sidelines of the Eurasian Business Summit in France. "But what I can say for sure is that the ministry's powers will change."

Gref recently came under heightened pressure after the Federal Customs Service was transferred from his ministry to the prime minister's control on May 11. Shortly afterward, he reportedly asked President Vladimir Putin to accept his resignation, although he did not file for it officially.

"The Economic Development and Trade Ministry has had extensive powers, and it is unlikely a coincidence that the president [Putin] has decided either to transfer part of these powers or create special authorities in form of agencies," Kopeikin said.

Last week Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov proposed at the cabinet meeting to effectively hive off part of Gref's ministry and make a separate trade ministry as a way to boost declining Russian exports. But some political experts said the move could well be unrelated to the real reasons behind the drop in exports, pointing among other factors to an upswing in global oil prices.

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